Tony Durkin: NRL’s big names facing some big challenges
WITH the NRL competition having been suspended to accommodate the rep weekend, coaches have had an opportunity to assess where their teams stand, re-focus on the remainder of the season and perhaps even set new goals.
But for a number of coaches, a chief priority will be to flick the switch on key players who are currently in a worrying flat spot.
While the hackneyed saying 'a champion team will always beat a team of champions' remains relevant in the NRL, genuine match winners are a precious commodity.
And to date in 2015 some big names just aren't pulling their weight. Those who need to up the ante with two thirds of the premiership rounds still remaining, include:
Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs):
He has lost the plot since a break-out 2014 season and his two brain snaps yesterday will almost certainly have him sidelined yet again. His scatty displays mirror the form of the Bulldogs and with Moses Mybe in career-best form, Reynolds risks losing his Dogs No.6 jersey.
Anthony Watmough (Eels):
He left the Sea Eagles because he felt it was a toxic environment, and was ecstatic Parramatta embraced him as one of their own. But unless he starts to play like the superstar for which they paid the big bucks, that love will soon perish.
Konrad Hurrell (Warriors):
Not only was he overlooked for the Kiwi Test team but he has been banished from the Warriors too. The 23-year-old has played 60 NRL games but seems more absorbed with off-field headlines, such as hairstyles, dance moves and other extra-curricular activities.
Kurt Gidley (Knights):
The Newcastle skipper was once a permanent fixture in the Blues Origin team, but is now struggling to retain his spot in the Knights' starting side. By his own admission he is way out of form and the major issue is in which position the respected utility can best serve.
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles): When the champion Manly halves announced they would both be leaving the northern beaches next season, the consensus was that Daly Cherry-Evans would be under most pressure in 2015. But Foran is the one under the gun and his contribution has been negligible.
Chris Lawrence (Tigers): With five members of their backline 22 and younger, coach Jason Taylor needs the experienced Lawrence - with 156 NRL games and six Tests - to be a steadying influence. He has been the opposite in 2015 and is struggling to stay in the team.
Although they don't necessarily face the chop, other leading players who have been disappointing include Ben Barba (Sharks), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Tony Williams (Bulldogs), Will Hopoate (Eels) and Dale Copley (Broncos).